ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Benefits of Yoga Breathing Exercises or Pranayama

Updated on April 27, 2019
Practicing the Kapalabhati pranayama or skull brightener yoga breathing exercise.
Practicing the Kapalabhati pranayama or skull brightener yoga breathing exercise. | Source

As long as there is breath, there is life. We can do without all conscious functions of the mind and the senses for a comparatively long time, but not without breath. Breath therefore is the symbol of all the forces of life and stands first among the bodily functions of prana. – Lama Govinda

The word Pranayama is a Sanskrit word which is a combination of two words, 'prana' + 'ayama':

  • 'Prana' means = 'to breathe forth' -- It comes from the prefix - 'Pra' = 'to bring forth' and the verb 'an' = 'to breathe' or simply 'to live'.
  • 'Ayama' literally means 'to stretch, extend; restrain, stop; expand, lengthen, either in space or in time'. It is usually translated as 'control'.

Traditionally in the philosophy of Yoga there are Eight limbs of Yoga according to Patanjali and the fourth one is pranayama. The first five namely, yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, and pratyahara, are regarded as the outer limbs of yoga and the last three, namely, dharana, dhyana and samadhi are the inner limbs.

Pranayama is the practice of using the breath to produce different effects in the body and mind according to the different durations of the inhalation and exhalation of our breath and also holding in the breath. In common usage 'Pranayama' is said to be breathing exercises. However, there is more to Pranayama than mere physical and mental benefits or effects. Pranayama is a means for:

  • Self inquiry – by looking at how we breathe we begin to understand something about who we are.
  • Self-transformation – as the yogis say, breath and consciousness are really two sides of the same coin, when we change the breath in the practice of pranayama, we inevitably change who we are.
  • Self-realization – when our small breath becomes one with and reveals itself as identical to, the Great Breath.

The Physical Benefits of Pranayama:

There are many beneficial effects on the physical body as a result of the regular practice of pranayama:

  • It stokes the gastric fire, which improves digestion and speeds elimination of wastes from the body.
  • It appeases thirst and hunger so you will not be distracted by these cravings during practice.
  • It opens the sinuses to allow more air into the body.
  • It purifies both the gross and subtle energy systems of the body.
  • It cures many diseases and conditions, including nervous disorders, indigestion, cough and fever.
  • The most important point is that what you get out of the practice depends on how much you put into it.

The Egyptian Pose is the best for those who cannot sit on the floor to meditate or practice pranayama
The Egyptian Pose is the best for those who cannot sit on the floor to meditate or practice pranayama | Source

How to Practice Yoga breathing exercises:

Traditional Yoga texts tell us about all the aspects of practicing pranayama such as frequency of practice, preferred time of day and place, the length of time of each practice, and also which direction to face while practicing. It is also important to have an idea of how to best structure your ongoing practice.

  • How often should you practice: Daily practice is ideal. Make a commitment to be as regular as possible and try not to miss more than two days out of every week.
  • When is the best time: Traditionally the best time to practice meditation and pranayama is just before or during sunrise. It is because the atmosphere is most highly charged with prana. Whatever time you choose it is important to practice at the same time every day.
  • What is the best place: A dedicated room or space in a room in your home is best for your practice with inspiring books and objects in it.
  • How long should you practice: Beginners should spend a minimum of 15-20 minutes for the first few months for each session. The practice should be done in the designated place and not by lying in bed and doing the breathing exercises.
  • Which direction to face: Facing East or North is ideal. East is the quarter of the rising sun and North is the quarter of the polestar and the pinnacle of heaven. This will help in observing the purity of direction
  • Dedication to the Divine: Once facing the chosen direction, either East or North, a few words of homage to the great teachers or words of your own devising can be said in a low voice. Just being silent for a few moments and dedicating the fruits of your practice to the divine is also a good idea.
  • What to wear: Loose fitting clothing appropriate to the season is best. Empty Stomach and after a shower is best. However, if you are too hungry have a light snack or drink. It is good to practice after a shower so that your body does not reabsorb the toxins during the practice when you go inwards.
  • Which Posture is best: An easy and comfortable posture is best, either on the floor or in a chair in the Egyptian posture.

There are many different yoga breathing exercises or pranayama such as:

  • Kapalabhati – skull brightener or skull shining breath (preparation for pranayama)
  • Vritti Pranayama – Ratio Breathing. There are two types:
  1. Sama-vritti – Equal Ratio breathing
  2. Vishama-vritti – Unequal Ratio breathing

The practice of Pranayama cannot be taken lightly. It is best to find a teacher to help you begin the practice. There is a lot of preparation to be done before beginning practice. It is a good idea to get the body in a condition of good health and fitness through yoga asanas (poses) and changing the lifestyle to a calmer and peaceful pace. One has to also overcome physical and mental obstacles to the practice.

If you are unable to find a teacher immediately, there are many good books available. One of which is The Yoga of Breath – A Step-by-Step Guide to Pranayama by Richard Rosen from which I have taken references for this article.


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)